Training aids do not usually take the PGA and European Tour by storm, so when I heard about the DST Compressor iron doing just that, I arranged to meet creator Bertie Cordle on the range at the 2015 Scottish Open to find out more.
Hi Bertie. How did you come up with the idea for DST in the first place?
Well the number one motivation came from the fact that I was hitting the ball badly and I wanted to hit it better! So I started reading up about players who hit the ball consistently well, or consistently better than anybody else in history, which I thought was the best place to start.
I started reading about Hogan, Trevino, Moe Norman and George Knudson and they all swung the club massively differently. Trevino had an out to in loop, and Knudson had an in to out loop, Moe started with a single plane swing with the shaft pointing to his lead shoulder and Hogan just had the most phenomenal transition.
They all swung the club differently, yet they all achieved the same impact position and it was that which was the common denominator. So I thought "OK, that’s interesting" and that prompted me to read a book about biomechanics written by Homer Kelly called “The Golfing Machine” and largely I didn’t understand it.
Probably for about 80-90% of the book I was thinking ‘what is he talking about?’ because there was so much talk of pivots and levers and forces. So, because of that I had to strip it right back to what was really important.
On page 12 he said, ‘The secret of golf is sustaining the line of compression’, which again I didn’t understand, but I tried to work on what he meant and what it basically was all about was trying to keep tension in the shaft and about the forces through the golf ball.
The lay person and the average golfer are just not going to get that understanding so I thought I would invent a way of describing that very simply. So basically the main lever of the golf swing is comprised of your lead arm and club shaft and all you are trying to do is keep tension on the shaft until after the ball has been struck. If there is tension in the shaft you are controlling the clubface.
At the point of maximum load on the shaft at impact the shaft develops a curve so I thought if I could develop a golf club which has this curve in I could physically force people to feel what that position and movement is like and that is what the DST Compressor golf club does.
What in your background gave you the knowledge to go away and manufacture a shaft that is curved?
Well, I played two events on The Challenge Tour in 1997 before becoming very ill which meant I had to give up playing golf completely – I couldn’t walk very well for 6 months and was then housebound for a further 12 months – and I couldn’t bear to be around golf if I couldn’t play.
After a long period of time I was being asked to come out and play and I finally decided that I would, but I was only going to play if I was relatively happy about the way I was hitting the ball. I forgot the score because that wasn’t important, but it was all about the consistency of strike because it puts a smile on your face when it comes out of the middle of the club.
I always hated training aids and had never used them and I thought I would only do this if it works for me. I had to think "am I really going to give up another successful company I have been running for seven years and do this full time" – you could argue it’s lunacy! But I thought if it works for me then it is going to work for everybody because the ideal impact position is the same for everybody whether you are a Tour Pro or a weekend warrior.
They have very different ways of getting to the impact position, but the impact position is scientific and it is unambiguous and if there is a golf club that helps people understand what that is, and it reinforces what the Tour Pro’s are trying to achieve, then this golf club is applicable to every single golfer on the planet and that is what’s exciting about it!
We’re on the range here at the Scottish Open, so how is it being received amongst the Tour Players who I’d imagine would be the hardest group to convince?
When we launched in Orlando in January at the 2015 PGA Show we were pretty much laughed off the range by the Tour Pro’s as they don’t really want to test new things that look silly. Nobody wants to be the first to make the leap, so I thought about the best way of getting it out there.
I thought I would speak to a top golf coach Pete Cowan, as we’re both Yorkshiremen, to tell him what it is. I showed him the clubs and explained the science behind it and at first I didn’t really hear much from him about it which made me think maybe it wasn’t going to work and I should move on.
But about three months later he was at the 2015 WGC Cadillac Championship at the Trump Doral and was walking up and down the driving range with the club under his arm, and he was showing it to Henrik Stenson, Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter and Luke Donald and from there it really went from the top down. People have seen these guys trying it, so everybody was asking what is that and wanting to try it.
So now, after 6 months, we have got more than 180 guys on the PGA Tour and the European Tour who use it during their warm ups to give them that feeling and that movement through impact.
You are forced because the club is curved to rotate your body and your hands past impact before the clubhead hits the ball. It is one size fits all – you use the same golf club if you are a club golfer or a Tour Pro and it will give you that feeling of what impact should be.
Looking in the bag here you have 8 iron and wedge versions of the DST compressor, so why have you gone for those particular clubs?
Well the fastest way to improve anybody’s game is to get the short game sorted out and the impact position remains the same regardless if you are hitting a pitching wedge or a driver. The ball position changes, but the impact geometry doesn’t change.
So if you learn how to get into and train an optimal impact position you might as well do it with a swing that is shorter and has less speed in it, which is the case with the shorter clubs. The position is the same so it is easier to learn that position using a pitching wedge and the results you see are instantaneous because people aren’t trying to hit the wedge as hard. If you can learn how to hit a proper chip shot and a proper pitch shot then that translates straight through the rest of the bag.
When players can hit the pitch shot they want to know what that is going to feel like with a full swing, so we picked the 8-iron as a simple club to hit that would give people that feeling.
We’ve actually had a lot of requests from Tour players to see if we can do a 5-iron, a hybrid, a 3-wood or a driver and the answer is, sure, we can, but we are not going to do that just for you because the mass market need to get to grips with what this is all about and that is much easier with the shorter clubs rather than trying to hit a driver with a curved shaft.
Is it a case that the longer the club the more curved the shaft?
No, not quite. The longer the shaft the more centrifugal force there is and the bigger the tensions and the forces involved so you have to ask yourself why do you want that? Why are you trying to give yourself a harder task? If you can’t do it with a wedge or an 8 iron why are you trying to do it with a driver? Just learn the movements and the sensations with a simpler movement first before you do something a little more difficult, so that is the reason behind it.
We have wedges and 8 irons in the DST Compressor, which have got a curved shaft and then we have got a wedge and an 8-iron in the DST CR-10 which is the more conventional golf club with the straight shaft and essentially that is the same technology as the compressor but it doesn’t have the curved shaft.
So when you say the same technology what does that mean?
It still has the amended sole angle, so when the sole of the club sits flush on the ground there is 10° of forward shaft lean.
When the club sits on the ground it naturally orientates so the club points towards your lead shoulder, which is the centre of the clubhead arc and when the club is sitting in that position, the line on the hosel, what we call the Hand Position Alignment Marker, will point up to your eyeline. So if you just grip the club in that position and re-obtain that position through impact you are delivering the club back into a position where you are controlling it thorough impact.
I see that with the CR-10 you look in a very good address position when it is behind the ball
Well, this is the other interesting thing. Three out of the four best ball strikers in history all started with the golf shaft pointing towards their lead shoulder. If you look at Lee Trevino, Moe Norman and George Knudson they all pointed the shaft to their lead shoulder and the only one who didn’t out of the four was Ben Hogan and he had the most phenomenal transition at the top of the backswing, so he pointed the shaft at his belt buckle at address but he got back into a tremendous position with his hands leading the club into impact.
Jack Nicklaus wrote in his book that because his lead shoulder is closer to the target than the ball he simply set up with the shaft pointing to his lead shoulder. So he did what this does naturally. If you start the golf club in a position that you want to obtain naturally at impact you simplify it because otherwise you have to adjust.
If I start with the shaft pointing to my belt buckle I have a concave lead wrist at address and therefore during the swing I have to get rid of that angle and introduce forward shaft lean. That means there is about 15cm difference between where the handle is at address and impact and you have got to do that during the backswing and the downswing when the club is moving which is pretty difficult to do so why don’t you just pre-set your forward shaft lean at address.
Do the DST Compressor and the DST CR-10 work in conjunction with each other or are they separate aids?
You can use them together. A lot of players go straight from the Compressor back into their ordinary golf clubs. The CR-10 is unbelievably good because it helps people set up in the same way every single time, which is a good thing in itself. Whether they set up in that position with the shaft pointing at the lead shoulder and the hand position aligns with their eyes or not is completely the player prerogative, but what I am saying is if you do start in that position your golf swing has less moving parts, so therefore it is simpler and more consistent.
The CR-10 is currently going through the conformance process with the R&A. I’ve designed them so they are conforming, so when they are rubber stamped it won’t be long before full sets of golf clubs incorporate the Hand Position Alignment Marker as it helps the golfer locate and understand what they are striving to achieve.
For 99% of amateurs, the biggest flaw is that they naturally want to the help the ball up into the air which means their weight stays back and they flip their hands and if you do that you have lost control of the clubface before you have hit the ball. So this is a visual marker to help them understand that is where they need to be. A very simple piece of technology that is pretty effective.
That makes perfect sense. I’m just trying to understand whether players move from the DST Compressor to the DST CR-10 to their normal set when warming up. Do you expect them to use both or one or the other?
Most people, especially what we have seen with the Pro’s, want to feel the sensation of a delayed strike so they go for the Compressor with the curved shaft, that is undeniably the club that is going to force you to feel something that is different.
The CR-10 is there to help golfers transition from that feeling into a normal golf club if they like the idea of the line on the hosel and if that helps them.
Some players, one example being Rafael Cabrera-Bello, said they don’t like the feeling and sensation of the curved shaft, but do like the line so they can have that only with the CR-10.
So they are really doing different things with the CR-10 aiding set up and the Compressor is really for impact?
Yes. With the wedge version of the Compressor the line does point up to the eyes so is perfect for set up too. With the 8-iron the marker is a little bit strong so your hands are a little bit too far ahead for set up but they are perfect for impact.
There has never been a club in the history of golf that helps people understand just what are you supposed to be doing at impact and these clubs do that for you.
Do you envisage these being available to people without any instruction or do you think they need to be used in conjunction with a coach?
I think, and this is happening already, that the clubs can be used without any instruction from a coach. We have put a lot of video’s on-line which explains the whole concept. Either the two minute how to use the club or the full blown bio-mechanics of ball striking version that explains all the science behind impact position and how to use the club.
It comes down to the evidence shown by cameras that take 10,000 shots a second that the main lever of the swing, the lead arm and the club shaft, and the line joins the ends of that lever is called the line of tension and if your hands are on the target side of that line you are going to be in control of the club, yet 99% of golfers sit back on their right foot and their body stops rotating towards the target and their hands flip with the club overtaking and they have completely lost control.
Is the idea protected by patents?
Yes we have global patents and on top of that in all golf playing countries around the world and we have trademarked DST and the words Compressor and Delayed Strike Technology, so the idea is well protected.
Are the DST Compressor and CR-10 widely available at the moment?
Yes they are available on-line through our website. The only place you can currently buy them in a store is at the Pebble Beach golf academy in the USA or at my home club at St. Enedoc. We have also just launched a global affiliate programme across North America and Europe for other retailers and professionals too.